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Flower Rankings, Week 9: Our bird can beat up your bird

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Flowers, Week 9, by now you know how it goes

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons
scenes from the feature film ‘300’
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Previously, on this season of Flower Rankings:

  • You were told the Hawks would head into the bye 2-2
  • You were told the Broncos were right there with the Patriots atop the AFC
  • You were told the Panthers and Cardinals were in serious doo-doo.
  • You were told the Raiders and Cowboys were playoff-level teams.

So half right! That’s like the definition of “not bad.”

The not bad rankings continue, then. As always, the rankings are by conference only. As always, they reflect the state of the league four weeks from now. How helpful are power rankings for the present? That time is already gone and we are in the future! These are rankings for the future, where we are and will be, when we get there.

Let the blooming begin, already.

AFC

The Best

The elite. The contenders. The crème de la crème. The possibly Superb.

1. PATRIOTS (7-2), up one

vs. Bengals, at Steelers, at Bills, Bye

One of the NFC North teams will rise up and slay the Smaug little bastards. Failing that, there’s always the Bills, who like to do people favors. One more week and the Seattle Seahawks show up in the queue. Then things get interesting.

2. BRONCOS (7-2), down one

at Chargers, vs. Texans, vs. Chargers, at Raiders

For the third straight week, sticking with the Thursday night road loss in San Diego before they right the ship with three wins. Derek Carr will have the worst day of his life in Week 9.

The Bourgeoisie

Playoff level teams whose station in life is comfortable enough. But they’re unlikely to rule the empire anytime soon.

3. STEELERS (6-2), up two

at Dolphins, vs. Patriots, Bye, at Ravens

Ben Roethlisberger is playing at the very top of his game, so now everyone can hate him for two reasons. 15 TD, 7.8 TD%, 106.6 rating, 7.67 ANY/A. That there is quality quarterbacking, the kind that can beat the Patriots and win one of the road games, almost by itself.

Of course, it is two road games. Of course, the Steelers lost by 31 points in week 3, at home, to a rookie quarterback’s team. So if Pittsburgh finds a way to lose them all, will the world stop turning before Election Day? Don’t answer that.

The fact is, every franchise loses by four scores now and again. Yes, every single one. There are no super-teams that keep every game close. The rest of the league is just too good, too full of playmakers.

4. RAIDERS (6-3), down one

vs. Chiefs, at Jaguars, at Bucs, vs. Broncos

Division games are hard. Road games are hard. How about a split, and another split, for a team still hunting for its defensive soul?

5. BILLS (5-4), up four

vs. 49ers, at Dolphins, vs. Patriots, at Seahawks

They’re at 3-2 with two very winnable games ahead. Followed by two very losable games. Except consider this: Buffalo has played three road games and outscored the hosts 53-32. The three hosts in question are 10-5.

Is this... it couldn’t be...? The Bills are clearly the second-best team in the division, at least. They’re going to get a chance to sweep the Patriots in Week 8. Is this... is this their year?

6. CHIEFS (5-3), up one

at Raiders, vs. Saints, at Colts, vs. Jaguars

The Saints and Colts and Jaguars are bad. The Raiders are good. Most obvious 3-1 stretch ever, right? Right?

7. RAVENS (4-4), down three

at Giants, at Jets, Bye, vs. Steelers

And now it’s five games decided by a whopping 20 points total. The Ravens are better than a .500 team, but not by much. Unless firing their OC midseason sends them on a championship run, like the last time they did it.

Hint, Baltimore: you’re not seeing Colin Kaepernick in Super Bowl LI.

8. BENGALS (4-4), down four

at Patriots, vs. Browns, vs. Skins, Bye

Screw that “winning in Foxboro” crap the previous Flower Rankings guy was writing. The Bengals are so-so and will be fortunate to enter the bye at .500, with their season not completely ruined. Teams have recovered from worse.

The Blinded by Parity

Because they’ve been deluded into thinking that 2016 is their year.

But in a month, they’ll be staring at long odds to make the playoffs. Parity gouged their eyes out and replaced them with glass eyes that throw stones at other teams’ houses while failing to see the plank in their own. (Yeah.)

9. TITANS (5-4), down one

vs. Browns, vs. Colts, vs. Jaguars, at Chargers

Every single team in the NFL would trade schedules with the Titans right now.

10. TEXANS (4-4), up one

vs. Colts, at Broncos, vs. Lions, Bye

The Texans are not good, because they are the worst 3-2 team in the league. The Texans have more JAGs than the Jags.

The Beggars

All they’ll be choosing high in, is the 2017 draft.

11. COLTS (3-6), up three for now

at Texans, at Titans, vs. Chiefs, at Packers

Oh I don’t know, give them a win in Houston, then three blowout losses so everyone can start to make excuses for Andrew Luck, we haven’t seen that yet in his career so it’ll be fun to listen to peopl

12. DOLPHINS (2-6), down one

vs. Steelers, vs. Bills, Bye, vs. Jets

Miami’s OctHomeber continues, with more losses. Except the Jets game. Man, that opening near-win in Seattle seems like a season or two ago.

13. CHARGERS (2-7), down one

vs. Broncos, at Falcons, at Broncos, vs. Titans

Just the Broncos home win, because Thursday, because division, because home, because Paxton “Least Mode” Lynch.

14. JETS (1-8), down three

at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Browns, at Dolphins

Trending in the wrongest direction. Nobody wants to read about them. Except that they’ll provide the Browns with their first win of the season. All right, so that’s mildly interesting. Let’s talk about it a couple teams from now.

15. JAGUARS (1-7), no change

at Bears, vs. Raiders, at Titans, at Chiefs

Last week: “Gus Bradley avoids the Bye-Bye Axe Of Bye with an unconvincing win in London. For now. Losses loom. Maybe the Jags pull one out in Chicago, but their late-game management doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence.”

This week: “Why does every game on the Jaguars’ schedule look like a loss?”

16. BROWNS (1-8), no change

at Titans, at Bengals, vs. Jets, vs. Cowboys

Cleveland fans can drown their sorrows in A) the Larry O’Brien Trophy B) the Indians’ postseason run C) the win over the Jets. They have to win one at some point — they have enough playmakers and once they get to their seventh quarterback, he will prove to be the long-awaited answer.

NFC

The Best

The elite. The contenders. The crème de la crème. The possibly Superb.

1. VIKINGS (7-1), no change

Bye, at Eagles, at Bears, vs. Lions

A loss in Philadephia — fueled by inevitable turnover regression — wouldn’t really put a big dent in the Vikings’ quest for a first-round bye. They’re going to win 12 or 13 games with that defense, if Bradford stays upright and doesn’t screw it up.

2. SEAHAWKS (7-1), no change

vs. Falcons, at Cardinals, at Saints, vs. Bills

Russell “Black Box” Wilson is already back to full health, according to Pete Carroll. Why don’t they make the whole plane out of him?

Good thing he’s mended, too, because the Super Bowl LI prematch awaits after this four-game stretch against four very potent, flawed and utterly unpredictable teams. Nice to have the toughest two at home. 3-1 wouldn’t be a disappointing stretch but 4-0 is well within reach.

3. PACKERS (6-2), down one

vs. Cowboys, vs. Bears, at Falcons, vs. Colts

Green Bay’s upcoming tilt against the Dak-las EzekiOLs will tell us a great deal about both teams and maybe even determine some playoff seeding. Cowboys are 3rd in offensive DVOA and Packers are 10th in defensive DVOA.

The Bourgeoisie

Playoff level teams whose station in life is comfortable. But they’re unlikely to rule the empire anytime soon.

4. FALCONS (7-2), up one

at Seahawks, vs. Chargers, vs. Packers, at Bucs

If you’d asked Atlanta fans a week ago whether they’d take a split of their upcoming battles in Denver and Seattle, approximately 100 percent would’ve accepted. Well, now, Seattle fans are also on board with the idea of a split.

Three wins look likely. Doubtful that any of the three defenses after Seattle’s will find hang with Atlanta’s firepower, or that they’ll bring the same level of pass rush the Falcons will have seen from the Broncos or Seahawks. This year, Atlanta is for real and should (should) win the division.

5. COWBOYS (6-2), up one

at Packers, Bye, vs. Eagles, at Browns

Ever week that passes legitimizes Dak Prescott as the legit starter of the future for the Cowboys. So, of course, this morning starts with updates from Dr. Jones:

Tony Romo has almost $31 million in dead money. Which is also, coincidentally, the amount of broken bones in his body. Zak Prescott is young and free. Jerry is in charge. Of everything. Pass the popcorn.

6. GIANTS (5-3), up three

vs. Ravens, at Rams, Bye, vs. Eagles

The Giants aren’t good enough to win all three of these games, but they will. If you’re reading, Don G., that backhanded prediction’s for you.

The Blinded by Parity

Because they’ve been deluded into thinking that 2016 is their year.

But in a month, they’ll be staring at long odds to make the playoffs. Parity gouged their eyes out and replaced them with glass eyes that throw stones at other teams’ houses while failing to see the plank in their own. (Yeah.)

7. EAGLES (4-4), down three

at Skins, vs. Vikings, at Cowboys, at Giants

Called the loss in Detroit. Now, three division road games loom. We’re in the back-to-earth-for-all-bird-teams-except-Hawks zone of the year.

In each of the last five years, a 3-0 team has failed to make the playoffs. This year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see two (Eagles and Ravens too) crash and burn.

8. RAMS (4-4), down one

at Lions, vs. Giants, Bye, vs. Panthers

Hear that? It’s the sound of a wild-card berth being fake-punted away by Jeff Fisher.

9. PANTHERS (3-5), down one

at Saints, Bye, vs. Cardinals, at Rams

Newton will be back, if not on Sunday, then after the bye. But the thing about a 1-4 team making the playoffs because the 2-4 Hawks did it last year? You have to get to 2-4 first, and not a lot of 1-4 teams win their next road game. Hard to believe so much for Carolina hinges on a road date with New Orleans in October.

In the meantime, the Panthers will be rooting for their good buddies, the lovable Seattle Seahawks. Thanks guys!

10. CARDINALS (4-4), up one

vs. Jets, vs. Seahawks, at Panthers, Bye

The Arizona Cardinals saved their season with a Stanton-led 12-point division road win. That is a sentence nobody has ever typed before, or will ever type again. Savor it.

11. REDSKNS (4-4), down one

vs. Eagles, at Lions, at Bengals, Bye

If you plan to bet on the outcome of the Skins-Lions game, you need professional help. Just saying!

12. LIONS (4-5), no change

vs. Rams, vs. Skins, at Texans, at Vikings

They’re good enough to win every game and bad enough to lose every game but let’s not kid ourselves, you’re just skimming past this blurb and are reading about the Niners already.

The Beggars

All they’ll be choosing high in, is the 2017 draft.

13. BUCCANEERS (3-5), up one

Bye, at 49ers, vs. Raiders, vs. Falcons

Not impossible they could finish ahead of the Panthers this season, as we all foresaw. Also not impossible the could finish fourth in the South. It all rests on the sure leg of their prized kicker.

14. 49ERS (2-6), down one

at Bills, vs. Buccaneers, Bye, at Saints

From last week’s FR post: “Maybe Colin Kaepernick will start one of the games above...? No I don’t mean the bye week, you smart-ass.”

Blaine Gabbert didn’t bring any play-making to the table, but at least his Niners offenses averaged 22.4 points per game. Kaep will have to exceed that number to start piling up wins. Or maybe he simply needs to stay healthy so he can upgrade situations in the off-season by bolting to the Browns.

15. BEARS (2-6), no change

vs. Jaguars, at Packers, vs. Vikings, Bye

16. SAINTS (1-7), no change

vs. Panthers, at Chiefs, vs. Seahawks, at 49ers

The bye ended, the Saints can go back to giving up five touchdowns a game. They’ve done that thrice already. The Seahawks have given up five touchdowns all season.